Are they our friends?

Story by Rick Snyder, Ph.D.

We often hear that every creature was put on Earth for a purpose. Really? What about those pesky mosquitoes?

I’m sure I remember from many years ago that mosquitoes were only a problem during the heat of summer. Then, at some point, they were troublesome in spring and early fall.

Now it seems that it doesn’t matter what time of year it is. If you sit outside in Mississippi to enjoy those days when the weather is actually pleasant, those mosquitoes are waiting for you. Even in the winter!

There are more than 50 species of mosquito in Mississippi. Most of them feed on animals and are not a problem for humans. That’s fine with me.

However, some feed on animals and humans. The problem with that is that some species can pick up some terrible diseases from the animals and then transmit them to people. The worst of these are West Nile virus, St. Louis encephalitis, LaCrosse encephalitis, and Eastern equine encephalitis. This is the reason that we need to avoid these insects. 

So how can we avoid them? We can either reduce their population or reduce our chances of being bitten. There are all kinds of sprays that kill adult mosquitoes, as well as larvicides (i.e. “donuts” and “bits”) that kill immature larvae. In addition, there are many repellents that we can wear on our skin or clothes to discourage them from landing on us. Nevertheless, no matter how much we spray or fumigate our yards, there is nothing to prevent them from coming right back. They can easily fly or blow right back in from surrounding yards.

Since three out of four of their life stages – eggs, larvae, and pupae – are found in the water, it makes good sense to get rid of those sources of water anytime you see them. Look for containers in your yard that fill up with water when it rains and dump them out! Note: Container plants on your patio do not need saucers under the pots. Let that water drain out.

Also empty birdbaths, old tires, chairs, or swings that may be holding water. Make sure your gutters are not clogged so the water will drain out of them. If you have puddles in your yard, think about filling in those low spots so water does not collect there. Even garbage lids left on the ground should be flipped over so they drain out. 

Some repellents work very well. Others, even though promoted widely on social media or some magazines, do not work much at all. 

Are there any benefits from having mosquitoes around? Glad you asked. There is a researcher at the University of Florida who has recovered the DNA from Burmese pythons inside mosquitoes. The research is being conducted at the Florida Medical Entomology Lab in Vero Beach.

So what’s the big deal about that? It means that mosquitoes are feeding on python blood! The long-term benefit of this is that sampling the DNA in mosquitoes can monitor python populations. Therefore, they will be easier to find. You can slither, but you cannot hide.

OK, that’s it for the good news about mosquitoes. We can all go back to being annoyed with them again. 

Happy Gardening.

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